Monday, February 26, 2018

WWzD/Automotive Alphabet Aerobics: B is for Bimmer

About four months have passed since my last WWzD/AAA post so it feels like time for another. For no good reason other than alphabetical order I'm covering the letter B.

Bavarian Motor Works is a 100-year-old car company headquartered in Munich, Germany. You know them as BMW. They started out making airplane engines, but ... just watch this for the background.

If you want to appear like you know cars, don't call a BMW car a Beemer, call it a Bimmer. BMW motorcyles are Beemers. I'm not making this up.

BMW made many cool cars with cool engines over the years, but they're famous for making perfect straight sixes. So I'm of the view that if you're going to get a classic BMW it should have a straight six.

As I said last time, I'm partial to rear-wheel-drive two-seat convertibles like this Z3 with a 2.8L I6 at The Stable in Gladstone, NJ. Forty-five thousand miles, 189 horsepower, a 2844 pound curb weight, three pedals, in Dakar Yellow for $14,500? Yes please!

If you want more power and are willing to pay more money, check out the Z3M which is basically a Z3 with an M3 engine shoehorned underhood and an M3 Evo suspension and brakes. These are fast and they feel faster than they are because they're so small and open. There's one in Estoril Blue (which is a classic and dope BMW color) for $26k at Ryan Friedman Motorcars in Valley Stream, NY.

The M is probably more collectible but I personally would keep the extra twelve grand and get the plain Jane Z3.

And with less than half of what you saved you could buy this 633 CSi in West Orange, NJ! It's for sale by owner, and the owner might be the worst car photographer in the world--he failed to really capture the car's iconic "shark nose" in any of the images and there are no good shots of the "fantastic" interior. Here's what it should look like.

The crispy 633 CSi shown above sold for $6000 on BaT in 2016. Another less crispy one sold last week for $5600. The one on Hemmings is not at all crispy and it's an automatic so that's another demerit. I would gouge the seller down to $4000 or so. Or just keep an eye on BaT. As you can see from their nifty E24 summary page, these lesser E24s come up with some frequency and they are not expensive at all. If you dig the E24's looks (and you should) and want something more collectible and powerful, consider the M6. They're anywhere from $25k to $50k or more, but they're classy as hell and should at a minimum hold their value.

And if money is no object?

I think the Z1 is a really cool car. The doors don't open, they slide down into the body of the car.

The Z1 was never sold in the US and couldn't be imported here until around 2015, so you likely won't see anyone else driving one. In fact I've never seen one in person. This one is available for $92,500 at Autosport Designs in Huntington Station, NY, hometown to zwoman and FOGTB FD. I don't love the gray camo seat inserts but that's 1990 for you.

The BMW 507 is stunning. It might be the most beautiful BMW ever. They're so desirable that I don't think you can get one for under a million dollars no matter the condition. Jerry Seinfeld gave Christoph Waltz a ride in one to get coffee in an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, check it out on Netflix. They're so cool Elvis had one.

The 507 has a V8, not an I6, but it's almost as iconic a BMW as you can find and I would welcome one in my driveway any time.

But for my go-to-hell money, I would get THE iconic BMW. The M1. Mike Ura put 10,000 miles on his in the last 5 years, which is probably unheard of (everyone else just rubs them with a diaper like Cameron Frye's dad's Ferrari) but I reflexively started applauding when he said it.

I don't care what James May says, the M1 is the Bimmer for me.

I could write much much more about BMW. Despite only making one true supercar (the M1) they made tons of awesome driver's cars over the past 50-plus years and you can find a good one at almost any price point.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Popcorn Lagniappe

In the words of the immortal(ish) Chad Allan, I've got, got, got, got no time to cobble together anything thoughtful for you this morning, but I do find myself eagerly awaiting a number of shoes to drop, events to happen, and futures to arrive.

Grabbing my popcorn, and watching:

Pat Forde's reporting on the NCAA hoops corruption 'scandal' continues to implicate the biggest names in the game. The logical conclusion here: blow it all up and let the market actually operate. The illogical conclusion, dozens of teams are banned from NCAA Tournament play, meaning the Tribe finally goes dancing.

Germany leads Canada, 4-1, in the semifinals of the Olympic hockey tournament, one day after the U.S. beat our northern neighbors in women's hockey and men's curling. Global warming is a motherfucker.

Manchester City and Arsenal play this weekend in the final of the Carabao Cup, the first cup competition in English soccer. I have no idea what a Carabao is.

Our Tribe play league-leading Charleston on Saturday in the regular season finale. We'll lose. It doesn't matter. David Cohn will play his final game in Williamsburg, closing his career as the Tribe's all-time leading scorer. And Connor Burchfield, the nation's leading three-point shooter, finishes his time in a Tribe uniform. Those do matter.

And speaking of popcorn, I'm going to see Black Panther this weekend. No spoilers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

This Week in Wrenball: 10 Years Later

There was a modest amount of Tweetnoise this week related to the notion that W&M coach Tony Shaver's run at W&M might be coming to an end. Something called @CoachingChanges (which, honestly, is probably a Russian bot) suggested that new W&M AD Samantha Huge's ambition might lead her to dismiss the only coach to ever get the Tribe within one game of the NCAA Tournament during the CAA era.

Things got a bit, if not heated, then maybe confusing, as Tribe fans, conference rivals, and impartial media types weighed in unanimously to suggest such a firing would be absurd, bordering on criminal.

Why yes, I am number one.
But as I thought about CoachingChanges' perspective, I could at least understand. Shaver's been at W&M for 15 years with zero NCAA Tournament appearances. In any other context, that'd be a death knell - would've been years ago, to be honest. But W&M is sui generis in terms of its hooping history.

From 1985 to 2007, W&M went 3-22 in CAA Tournament play. In the 18 seasons before Shaver took over in 2003, the Tribe finished .500 or better twice. Twice. In his 15 seasons, W&M has done it eight times, including the last five in a row (we're guaranteed to do so this year). He's won 20 games four times, a mark W&M reached five times in the 96 years before he arrived. After three mediocre campaigns to begin his W&M career, Shaver's squads have gone 11-10 in CAA Tournament play, making four league finals.

Those numbers only tell part of the story. Pre-Shaver, W&M was a whipped fanbase, devoid of hope, of belief, of anything but morbid fascination with a serious of no-chance rosters wearing our colors.

And then, like a bolt out of the blue, that happened. W&M rode a string of three buzzer-beating victories to the 2008 CAA Tournament final against George Mason. And while we lost that game, it changed everything. As G:TB wrote at the time:

"But as we noted in this space just yesterday, the loss does nothing to diminish the joy this unlikely group of kids brought to W&M’s generally subdued alumni. For the briefest of moments we were allowed to pretend we belonged, to plan trips to the Boise or Sacramento or Tacoma subregionals, to shout ourselves hoarse watching a game that actually mattered, and to dream. Generations of us had never even allowed ourselves to dream. When we talk about this team, that’s the thing we’ll remember – not that they finally fell short, but that they let us dream, hope, and care. And at some level, that’s the magic of college basketball, that an obscure school from a mid-major conference can make otherwise mature (it’s in the eye of the beholder, people) adults let loose the bonds of logic and rationality and really, deeply believe in the most unlikely outcomes."

This year's Tribe squad closes out the regular season with home games against UNCW and the College of Charleston. W&M is currently 16-11, 9-7 in CAA play. We're all but assured of playing Towson in the 4/5 game in the first round of the conference tournament, and we don't match up well with them. If we escape that gauntlet, top-seeded Charleston probably awaits. It's going to be a tough road.

But we've still got the nation's best shooting team, an offense that's capable of going plaid and beating anyone. And we've got a coach who knows how to win games when throats get tight and kids get nervous. In a league like the CAA, anything really can happen, even for William & Mary

And so we dream, hope, and care. That's what Tony Shaver has given us. And even though we've been so close and not yet crossed over the rainbow bridge, dreams and hopes and cares are enough. We didn't have that before.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Holiday Celebrations

Lazy on a Monday afternoon in my neck of the woods, procrastinating because I've got work to do, both the honey-do and the boss-says-do kinds. And since I don't acknowledge the current President*, some others of note.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Fashion is Dumb: NYFW NSFW

You know the old adage, a merkin** a day keeps the doctor away. That makes the models below some healthy gals. Bonus points to the designer for calling this collection "Oriental Garden".

**I love that we already had a "Merkins" label

Thank you Mark for the reminder:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

This is a Call

Turning away from the rotting newspage for a moment...

T-shirts being made up now:

Rob &
Dave &
Whitney &

TR &
Zman &
Marls &

TJ &
Jerry &
Dennis &


...and a number of other FOGTB and commenters in this space...

What do they have in common?

We are all members of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity's Virginia Psi chapter.  Pi Lams.  Frat guys.  Yippee.

A little backstory...

"Founded at Yale University in 1895, Pi Lambda Phi was the first non-sectarian fraternity in the United States, accepting men of good character without regard to race or religion. There are presently 37 chapters in the United State and one in Canada. The Psi Chapter (also called Virginia Psi) at The College of William and Mary was installed in June 1929..."

Skip a bit, brother...

In 1989, Rob, Dave, and I (and this guy... and this guy... and this guy... and a guy named this...)
decided to enlist in the service of fraternal life. A semester of hijinks ensued. Three-plus more years of antics congealed. A life of friendship endured.  A blog of dipshittery materialized.  All this and more, on a very special episode of Gheorghe: The Blog.

We learned along the way that all men are created free and equal.  We learned the expression "not four years, but a lifetime." That the Pi Lam flower is the woodbine.  That the Pi Lam bird is not the nuthatch but is instead something else.

We learned that you can meet random idiots in a dormitory when you are 18 and create friendships that will last you a lifetime.  But that not everyone has a palate for Random Idiots.  We learned that being sarcastic and intoxicated and slovenly is not a successful formula for courting ladies, and that "getting lucky" is not a misnomer.

We learned the expression "four years, maybe five, but nary a credit hour more." We learned that the era of unbridled fraternity, rugby (or lacrosse), and alcohol at universities of tradition and prestige in the American South has come to a close.  And that filling a frat house with our kind of complex creature became increasingly, then impossibly hard.  We finally learned that if you smash a board over someone's face, even a friend's, and videotape it, the Man will come for you.

And that he did.  And the little social club thrown together in the year of the great stock market crash was suddenly no more in 2004.  And there was great depression.

* * * * *

Yesterday morning at our office in Hampton, VA, we had a networking event that drew a few dozen folks for coffee. Among the group was our fratre Chris Old's older brother Hunter, a Phi Kappa Tau at W&M while we were there. I talked to him at length.

Randomly, another guest was a much younger Tribe alum who had graduated within the past 10 years, and he was also a ΦΚΤ.  He told the tale of them being booted off campus (again), and that when it happened, they snagged a bunch of the old composites.

Here is the one he grabbed at right.

See anybody you've heard of?

As fraternities come and go and finally wither away from our alma mater, there's probably no sense in hoping against hope for a resurrection of our gang's chapter.

Instead, my ask is simple: did anyone grab the old composites when the house was eradicated from W&M?
Doesn't it seem like the Martha Wood Cottage might be a fine place to honor the misspent youth of our heydays?
Or did the powers that be in William & Mary's administration order those nostalgic snapshots of maturity gone by be unceremoniously burned to ashes?
If the Phi Tau's can do this, why not the Pi Lams?  Why not us??

Inquiring minds like mine want to know, and deep thoughts like this keep me from mulling over the state of the nation.

That is all.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

10% Off Bob Ross Merch!

Our tiny dictator demanded more filler and gmail providently provides. Behold, from my inbox, alerted me to a 10% sale on Bob Ross merch! Use the code BR10.

The selection is breathtaking. They have two, count 'em two, happy little Bob Ross bobbleheads.

And you thought we'd never use the Bob Ross tag again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hey Hey Hey, It's Faaaaaaaaat Tuesday

Happy Fat Tuesday to all of you.  Here's to the end of a raucous Carnival season for the GTB-boys and girls... and our collective headlong launch into sobriety and serenity for Lent.

As such, have one tonight, be it hurricane or hand grenade, Abita or Sazerac. Cheers, revelers.

In the meantime, here's a game you know well from cocktail parties: it's called 24 Truths and a Lie.  Most of these facts about Mard Gras were copied and pasted from one of several websites with the Fat Tuesday lowdown.  Some were not.  One of them is a fib.

See if you can spot it!

24 Truths and a Lie About Mardi Gras

  1. Mardi Gras is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
  2. Carnival season begins on Jan. 6, Twelfth Night, the Christian holy day of the Epiphany, and ends with Mardi Gras.
  3. Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is also known as Shrove Tuesday.
  4. "Laissez les bon temps rouler" is the official greeting of Mardi Gras. It means "Let the good times roll."
  5. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple (justice), gold (power) and green (faith).
  6. New Orleans has been celebrating Fat Tuesday with parades since 1837. 
  7. Carnivals include balls, parties, and parades with floats and costumed dancers.
  8. The first floats appeared in the parade in 1857.
  9. During the 12-day period leading up to Mardi Gras, nearly 70 parades roll in the area.
  10. It’s illegal to not wear a mask onboard a float.
  11. Each parade is run by a different krewe.
  12. Krewes choose a different theme for their parades each year.
  13. Each krewe has a system of royalty.
  14. Whitney first attended Mardi Gras in 1996; at happy hour at the Irish Times on a Wednesday, several colleagues convinced him to show up the next day at work with bags packed for Mardi Gras. He did, and they all drove the roughly 1,000,000 hours to New Orleans. Way more roughly coming back Sunday.
  15. Mardi Gras Indians are more secretive about their parade schedules.
  16. Beads have been a tradition since the early 1900's.
  17. Mentioning one phrase will score you beads at parades: "throw me something, mister"
  18. If you want to keep Mardi Gras family friendly, avoid the French Quarter.
  19. Festivities have been canceled 13 times before, most often during wartime.
  20. Whitney returned to Mardi Gras in 1997 with his fiancee's sister; that went over poorly.
  21. Sometimes coconuts are distributed instead of beads.
  22. Mardi Gras sometimes overlaps with the Super Bowl.
  23. Joe Corcoran and Whitney had heaping amounts of beads from sweet-talking hot girls and shedding clothing before many female onlookers.
  24. Mobile, Alabama, was the first place in the United States to celebrate Mardi Gras.
  25. Mardi Gras is a state holiday in Alabama, Florida, and parts of Louisiana.

Good luck! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Gather the Tribe

The Tribe's on the move this weekend, spreading our feathers and heading out into the world. Don't tell the NCAA. Here's just a sample.

This morning in Orlando, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) holds its first contested
Presidential election since 1998. Among the eight candidates, Kathy Carter (W&M '91) is considered both the establishment choice and one of two front-runners. The process is a complicated one, with multiple constituencies holding relatively equal power. The Athlete Council, made up of 20 current and former men's and women's national team members has 20% of the vote, though it doesn't always vote as a bloc. The Professional Council (featuring the MLS, NWSL, USL, NASL and others) controls 25.8%, as do the Youth Council (state youth soccer associations) and Adult Council. The remaining 2.6% is comprised of various board members, life members, and two fan representatives.

Carter has all but locked up the Professional Council vote, and has received the endorsement of enough others to push her over the 30% mark. She's likely to split votes with Carlos Cordeiro, the current USSF Vice-President, and the other establishment candidate. The six other candidates (former players Eric Wynalda, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo, and Paul Caligiuri, and attorneys Steve Gans and Michael Winograd) have reportedly issued a statement to the voters urging them to eschew Carter and Cordeiro in favor of a change candidate. If the upstarts can keep either Carter or Cordeiro from winning a majority of votes on the first ballot, then the election could get very interesting.

Says here that if Carter hopes to win, she'll either need to do it on the first ballot, or get so close that she can convince Cordeiro to drop out and support her on the second. If that doesn't happen, then I like Kyle Martino. The former USMNT player and NBC soccer broadcaster has impressed a lot of people with his hard work building grassroots support and his thoughtful approach to addressing American soccer's challenges. If Carter does win, she could do a lot worse than sign Martino up for some sort of leadership role within the Federation. Or she could hire me.

Later this afternoon, your Wrens hope to get back on track against an up and down Delaware squad. The Tribe is 8-5 in conference play, good for a third-place tie with Hofstra, two games behind Charleston. After a 5-0 start in the CAA, Tony Shaver's boys have come down to earth a bit, mostly because they can't stop anyone. W&M averages 85 points per game, and remains one of the nation's best shooting teams. But they give up 82 points each contest, making for exciting basketball, but for some tough times.

As usual, the regular season really isn't that vital. As long as W&M can finish somewhere around 10-8, and hang around third or fourth in the regular season, they'll have a shot. That shot will be somewhat easier if they can avoid Towson and Charleston.

One week from Sunday, Marcus Thornton represents the Tribe (and the Canton Charge) as part of the USA roster in the G League International Challenge. The G League squad will face the Mexican National Team in Los Angeles. As part of the event, Thornton will be training with USA national team coach Jeff Van Gundy and trying out to be part of Team USA during World Cup qualifying. Marcus is averaging 18.4 ppg, and making 41.1% of his three-pointers, growing rapidly as a scorer at this level over the past month.

Speaking of Tribe hoops, redshirt junior Paul Rowley is the kind of representative that makes us all proud. A Loudoun County product, Rowley's already graduated from W&M, and is now in his first year of law school. He's one of three players in the country combining Division I hoops with law school. He's an impressive kid:

And since the topic of W&M Law came up, let's talk for a moment about one of the Tribe's most famous (and in some circles infamous) alums. Former FBI Director Jim Comey will teach a class in Ethical Leadership starting next fall, both at the school's Washington Center and in Williamsburg.

Comey (W&M '82) stirs emotions on both sides of the political aisle at the moment, accused of both tipping the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump and of seeking to undermine the same Trump. I work closely with current and former FBI executives, and they're unanimous in their loyalty to Comey and praise for his ethical standards and moral leadership. We may never really know why he did what he did last October, but even as I hate what happened, I believe that Jim Comey did what he believed to be right.

Finally, we're now into the swing of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and it's nice to have some Tribesfolk to root for. It would be nice, anyway, if there were any W&M reps in South Korea. There aren't, though, so we'll have to make do with American ski jumper William Rhoads (with whom I share a birthday) and U.S. cross country skier Mary Rose.


Friday, February 09, 2018

How to Grown Up

I'm only peripherally aware of John Perry Barlow's mark on modern culture and society. As a young man, he was one of the Grateful Dead's lyricists (among other songs, he wrote Mexicali Blues), as a result of his childhood friendship with Bob Weir. (He's also reported to be the person who introduced the Dead to Dr. Timothy Leary, and in so doing ushered in some...crazy shit.) Later, he became one of the leading thinkers on digital rights and civil liberties, helping shape the modern internet, and his work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation established a libertarian-leaning framework that guided many of technology's most prominent minds.

As I said, I kinda knew most of that stuff. But not much more. Barlow passed away this week, and  among the numerous articles on his life, I stumbled upon his 25 Principles of Adult Behavior, which you'll find below:

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

According to, at which you can find a more expansive discussion of Barlow's principles, Barlow drew up this list when he was 30. Which makes him far more mature and thoughtful at that age than the average bear.

Or the average Gheorghie, who will find much with which to agree on Barlow's list.

I've got some work to do. Really need to finally give up blood sports.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Some Distractions, Alternatively Titled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet"

We've had some excellent serious writing here of late. I, of course, am neither excellent nor serious. Rather than let the state of our democracy drive me insane, or succumb to my cycle of bitterness, I find diversions to preoccupy my brain. Here's some stuff for you to try.

I've spilled many pixels here before about Check it out when the world's bringing you down. There's an almost-perfect (I'd prefer Laguna blue) Honda S2000 around the corner from me. Find a convertible and buy it. Then drive it with the top down as much as possible. Convertibles make people happy. There's a good looking Mini up for auction right now too.

Another cool car site is Not only are the authors into cars, they're into photography and design in general. They product tremendous pictorals and even more magnificent videos. Ever wonder why I lust after Alfa Romeos, or why I'm always trying to figure out how to pay my mortgage, feed my family, save for zkids' college, and buy a Giulia Quadrifoglio? Watch this and make sure the volume is up:

Ever heard of a Porsche 959 and wondered why it's such a big deal? Watch this:

If you spend enough time on petrolicious you'll probably see an article or two about watches, which might lead you to I'm not saying that I've become a watch collector or that I have an even halfway decent understanding of how watches work, but if I have 10 minutes to kill I'd rather read about some crazy $100,000 watch than a 2000-word think-piece about Trump's latest tweet.

I also stream the daylights out of ... electrons? I don't know what exactly comes through the stream but it winds up on my TV all the time. If you haven't watched Narcos on Netflix stop everything and watch it. It's the best show on TV now, better than whatever Game of Thrones became last season. I love this show so much I had a fantasy team named Plata o Plomo. It has Pachanga from Carlito's Way and the Red Viper from Game of Thrones. It's superbly done. Here's a trailer.

When you're done with that watch El Chapo. It's Univision's answer to Narcos and it's also on Netflix. It isn't quite as good as Narcos but after Narcos you need to keep watching Latin American drug lords do preposterous drug lord stuff. As opposed to whatever preposterous stuff our nation's leaders are doing.

And, of course, Twin Peaks. At a minimum watch season 1, the last three episodes of season 2, and season 3. Or just watch season 3 episode 8 over and over and over again.

I don't read as much as I used to or as much as I'd like, and when I do read I'm not overly confident in my abilities to write about it given we have Dave the polymath/English teacher/devourer of libraries writing in this space. That said, my approach is to pick an author and dive in. I can't say enough good things about John Updike. The Henry Bech books are a good place to start as they're pretty light. Then try the Rabbit Angstrom books--they're heavier. Tom Robbins is fun. David Quammen and Jared Diamond make science and natural history interesting and accessible. I'm currently trying to figure out Philip Roth. All are much more fun and enlightening than any of Devin Nunes' memos.

Things you should avoid: Facebook, Twitter, really anything that allows any moron with internet access to draft an overly reductive hot take and blast it to thousands of people in a matter of seconds. That shit won't make you happier. Or curate those feeds carefully.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Return to the Isle of Dipshittery

After 13 years of this inanity, we know where our bread is buttered. Here's a musical palate cleanser.

Y'all know how I feel about CHVRCHES. And here's their new single.

I'm a big Justin Timberlake fan, but that Super Bowl halftime show was meh wrapped in the shrugged shoulders emoji. So here's Prince playing Purple Rain in 2007.

Here's a What the Kids Are Listening To drop. My daughter loves Brockhampton. I hope I don't learn that they're some kind of assholes.

And because I had this song in my head for most of the evening, and then heard it on the radio while driving my kids around, which seems like an good omen.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Afterschool Special Week: It Makes Me Anxious

It's Very Serious Subject Week here at G:TB, not necessarily by design. After this post, as I've told others, I'm going to take a trip to the Isle of Dipshittery, where I'll reside peacefully for the next several months. But I hope this one resonates for someone who might need it.

I've been writing this post for almost four years, and I've had a hard time deciding whether I even wanted to publish it. It's personal, and it's scary, and it makes me feel vulnerable as hell. But in light of recent events in my little town, and of my admonishment to our community to reach out when we see people in pain, I feel a bit obligated.

The Atlantic's Scott Stossel wrote a cover story in the magazine's January 2014 issue about anxiety. Irrational, crippling, stressful, anxiety. One of the most common of all mental illnesses.

I've been there.

The first 39 years of my life were blissfully anxiety-free. Nerves, sure. Ask Whitney about how I couldn't eat before I gave the toast at his rehearsal dinner, pushing my food around my plate for 20 minutes or so. (Nailed the toast, though.) And I worried about normal stuff - bills, and my kids, and the Red Sox. But debilitating, heart-pounding, depths of despair anxiety wasn't in my emotional vocabulary.

Then, in August 2010, I found myself at a conference I didn't want to attend, with a group of people I didn't care to be around. Alone in a Tampa hotel, I had the longest night of my life. My heart raced uncontrollably. I was drenched in sweat. I couldn't shake the notion that I was going to die. And I certainly couldn't sleep.

I made an excuse and took an early flight home, hoping that familiar scenery and the proximity of the people I loved would help. Not really.

The next month is a dulled blur. I took sleeping pills and melatonin to try to get some uninterrupted slumber, but they rarely worked. I fell asleep at the wheel driving to work more than once. Which was better than my commute home, which I spent every day focused on worst-case scenarios, mostly economic, like losing my job, falling into financial ruin, driving my wife and kids away.

I thought about what it would be like for them if I were gone, me with my $1.0m+ in various life insurance policies. To be clear, I never contemplated suicide - just the results. It is exceedingly easy for me to see how people in a similar place could take that next step. I saw no way out, no obvious remedy.

A few months later, just after Thanksgiving, after a two-year battle against cancer and a rapid decline, my father passed away. I felt it was my place as the man of the family now to be strong for my Mom and my sister. I greeted well-wishers and accepted their condolences, and I wrote and delivered a eulogy, and I talked to my kids about their Papa.

One thing I never did was spend time with my own grief. I was too much of a mess.

Had you seen me at that time, you likely wouldn't have known anything was wrong. I managed to handle my professional affairs, though Lord knows I can't tell you how. Perusing my G:TB content over the first few months of 2011 yields nary a clue. That was the era of #3bids4CAA, and our dustup with Mid-Majority's Kyle Whelliston.  (In a bit of supreme irony, I later learned that Whelliston himself suffered from depression, so at least a few of the things I said about him cause me some measure of regret.) I withdrew a bit from my friends, but after a couple of beers I could generally find an equilibrium, or at least moderate the racing thoughts. Depressive anxiety is a motherfucker, silent and invisible.

My wife might tell you otherwise. At home, according to her, I was a zombie. I'd come home and retreat into myself, doing the bare minimum necessary to be a parent and husband, and often even less than that.

I confided in a few people, and when I did, it helped. Unburdening myself, opening up, leaning on others reminded me that I wasn't alone, at least for a brief period. It was that realization that put me on the path to recovery. If you take nothing else away from this, take this: the concern and care of others matters, and is a huge bulwark against the loneliness and helplessness that blanket the thoughts of people in the throes of depression and mental illness like a low-lying and persistent fog.

Ultimately, three things made the difference for me: therapy, medication, and time. My wife has a background in counseling, and she helped me understand that talking to a professional was necessary, that being proactive in trying to help myself was in many ways the opposite of weak. My doctor prescribed an anti-anxiety med, which settled me at a time when I was all over the place, even as it dulled my emotional range. And as a few months passed, the combination of those first two supporting scaffolds enabled me to slowly regain my equilibrium. Those, and the continued, never-judging love and support my wife provided.

I'm lucky. Many people don't emerge from bouts of depression and anxiety, or at least don't do so over a period of months. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 40 million Americans experience some form of anxiety disorder each year, but fewer than 40% of them receive treatment. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 16 million Americans experienced a major depressive episode in 2016, 6.7% of the adult population. The statistics are worse in many other countries. Practically speaking, one out of every 10 people you see every day is dealing with some kind of anxiety or depression disorder.

It's been nearly seven years since I last displayed any anxiety-related symptoms. Now, when I worry about money, or the future, it lasts a few minutes, and there's a whole set of rational arguments I can make to change the subject in my mind. Like anyone, I have good days and bad days, positive moods and shitty, grumpy ones (that hasn't changed much in 47 years), but the reasons are closely tied to the actual events of the day, not to some imbalance in my brain chemistry. As I said earlier, I'm lucky.

I consider myself fortunate in another way, too. I'm a far more compassionate person as it relates to the suffering of others, particularly those dealing with mental illness. I'm a private person. I don't like to talk about myself. But in the past six-plus years, I've found myself more than once telling someone about my experience because I thought it would help them feel less alone in theirs. I'm an advocate for therapy, and for admitting that sometimes other people have answers we don't. I have no idea whether I've helped, but staying silent seems less of an option now.

As Patton Oswalt has famously said in his recent standup special, "It's chaos. Be kind." I've adopted that as a bit of a mantra for myself. It applies in so many ways in our modern world. I've learned that there is no 'normal', and we're all fucked up in our own, unique ways. There is no shame in seeking help, in admitting that you don't know everything. And if you don't need help at some point, you're blessed beyond your own understanding.

And hopefully, that' to grow on.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Remember When Life Was Simpler and We Could Live Dangerously?

Back last September, Zman and I found ourselves on the same flight from Newark to Tokyo. It was unusual. And it allowed me to take one weird stalkerish pic.

As he may (or may not) remember, the flight's wifi crapped out on us. This is a suboptimal turn of events on a 13-hour flight. So I had to hunker down and dig into my meager Netflix downloads. But I did not like Bloodline, even though I've had a crush on Linda Cardellini since her Freaks & Geeks days. So I started perusing the movie selections on the flight.

You take a different mindset when you are alone on a flight with no responsibilities for the next ten hours. You're essentially looking for mindless entertainment. The screen is small and the audio is poor, so you don't want to have to think too hard. On recent flights, I dug into Deadpool and the newest X-Men movie. They were both fine. But I couldn't find one to tide me over...until I found Johnny Dangerously.

In the early days of HBO, they seemed to have ten movies on replay over and over again. I saw The Outsiders and Red Dawn about a million times. And Johnny Dangerously was in that mix as well. It's important to remember how iconic that move is. It ages fantastically.

Here are my seven favorite things about that move, which, at 34 years old, is older than my future second ex-wife.

1. Michael Keaton - god damn, he had his comedy fastball working in this. He was great. It's nice to have him back around these days.

2. This was Dick Butkus' second greatest acting effort after his role in Hamburger U.

3. Raymond's dad played a mafia boss and it made sense at the time. Rest in peace, Peter Boyle

4. Weird Al did the opening credits song. This was before his meteoric rise to fame from Eat It, although I will fistfight with any man, woman or child who denies that Rye or the Kaiser is his best tune.

5. Your Testicles and You. Still epic.

6. There are some tremendous cameos in this movie: Mr. Hand, Taylor Negron, Dom DeLuise and Chuck Woolery, to name a few. That's a random group of 80's name that have zero resonance with the millennials.

7. Roman Moronie. Holy crap is he the best. The actor who played him (Richard Dimitri) did very little of note before or after this movie. But he hit it out of the park with this role.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Life. Celebrated Daily.

I was ready to simply comment this on the latest "Sentence" of Dave, the one where he concludes:
I remain optimistic that people are not as stupid and narrow-minded as the folks representing them in our government right now.
Here's what I typed in reply:
People ARE that stupid. And somehow the right has decided to capitalize completely on their ignorance.

I credit the shrewdness of the plan to convince millions of simple Americans to flush their better interests away in the name of egregious hypocrisy, hubris, and hatred. It's clever, and it's working. I just can't stomach the hideous lack of human decency.

And because of that, I instinctively avoid these articles and podcasts. Can't do 'em. They make my neck and back ache almost immediately when I read them. Stomach acid starts bubbling. Instant hypertension, and it's not these scholars' and crusaders' faults, but that's what happens.

I'm sorry to put my head in the sand when civic atrocities are occurring daily, but it's a survival mechanism. I need to go to the Outer Banks, hit our favorite spot, and watch surf videos while listening to reggae and eating fish tacos.

And there it is.  More and more I am involved in civic leadership groups and roles in my hometown, but more and more I have to put national, international, and sometime state issues on a mental shelf.  That's a challenge when even around my town, or in any pocket of the parachute pants known as social media, I quietly bear witness to daily, logic-dashing emanations attacking intelligence and factual integrity in contemporary revivals of The Emperor's New Clothes all because of America's version of Brewmeister Smith and his skating minions.

I get frustrated with people's fixed alignment with patently faulty logic.  That's an enormous understatement, I'd say.  I've had major relationships crumble because of this scenario.  If people want to quietly hold opinions dear that make no sense and serve as self-sodomy, that's fine.  I will, sometimes very unfairly, quietly judge them to be morons.

When people make grand proclamations of ass-backwards, stupefyingly stupid nonsense and then look at me like I'm the asshole, though, that's more than I can bear.  And I'm aggressively non-confrontational -- not only am I a pacifistic "can't we all just get along" wiener who couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag, but also when I know I won't have the slightest opinion-altering impact on sputtering nitwits, I arrogantly won't deign to speak to such people about a topic of which they just demonstrated a grasp that's equivalent to mine on greased trigonometry in marriage -- so I won't do anything at all, instead turning my attention to lighter fare and more easily achieved smiles. (Dave, that "sentence" was for you.)

My city's slogan is "Life. Celebrated Daily."  Doesn't get much lighter fare than that, but that's about perfect for me.  I am so painfully obviously ill-equipped to process and deal with a world where logic gets stuffed in the glove box and puffed-up insecurity posing as patriotism is behind the wheel, I'm guilty of being a quitter.  A non-participant.  An ostrich among eagles, condors, and vultures.

You could do worse than to have your worldview imbued by the teachings of His Holiness the Gheorghe Carlin.  One of the bits that always sticks with me is his take on the disparity in license plate messages between New Hampshire and Idaho.  Check out the first 2 minutes of this segment:

Yep.  That's about right.  But in a way I'm both; I'm gonna live free; I'm gonna revel in silly stuff like goofy slogans, stand-up comedy, blogging like a clown, and eating some famous potatoes; and then I'm gonna die.  Hopefully as happy as I am right now, not blissfully ignorant but removed enough from the fray that my glass stays half-full.  (At intervals before my man Tortuga's Sean fills it back up.)

I will close with my favorite slogan 'round these parts:

Now back to your regularly scheduled dipshittery.

Thursday, February 01, 2018


I have a love/hate relationship with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' 'The Impression That I Get'. On the one hand, it's a great tune, full of ska-inflected energy. But on the other, it asks a question, the answer to which finds me wanting.

As Dicky Barrett sings:

I'm not a coward I've just never been tested
I'd like to think that if I was I would pass
Look at the tested and think there but for the grace go I
Might be a coward
I'm afraid of what I might find out

I used to think about physical courage in the context of this song, despite its lyrical exploration of emotional resilience in the face of pain and tragedy. I'm not a big man, so I wonder what would happen if called to protect my loved ones, or a stranger confronted by violence. I'd like to think that my competitive nature and general scrappiness might drive me to do the right thing, but as they say, I'm afraid of what I might find out.

Daniel Ellsberg
Last weekend, though, I had occasion to think about 'The Impression That I Get' in a different light. My wife and I took our daughter to see The Post, which focuses on Katherine Graham's decision to print details from the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s. There's a scene in the movie involving Daniel Ellsberg and Post reporter Ben Bagdikian. Ellsberg was the Rand Corporation military analyst and former Defense and State Department employee and ex-Marine who provided first the New York Times and later the Washington Post and numerous other publications with the classified documents that sparked the furor.

In the scene, Bagdikian wonders if his former colleague Ellsberg realizes that he's certain to be prosecuted, and likely to go to jail. Ellsberg responds, "Don't you think it's worth going to jail to stop this war?"

To which Bagdikian replies, "Theoretically."


That word does a lot of work.

We live in a time where the border between theoretical and applied resistance to the degradation of our political and societal norms is rapidly blurring if not disappearing. Across the country, people are standing up in the face of consequences as mild as social group ostracism (thinking about the Never Trump Republicans) and as catastrophic as the destruction of families (in the case of immigration activists being targeted for deportation).

I fight a mean rearguard battle on Twitter, and my stances on the issues of the day are well-chronicled there and in this remote corner of the galaxy. I squared off once online against Curt Schilling, man on man, electron versus electron, sane human against rapidly disintegrating Nazi, and lived to tell about it.

There's not a lot at stake, obviously, in anonymous online activism. It's 'theoretically' in real terms.

Despite what I may say in my worst moments, I try not to be alarmist, and I generally believe that the our institutions can (and have) survive(d) a great deal of destabilization. But each day, norms are degraded that much more, and each day we seem to slouch slowly towards some sort of irrevocable breaking point. We have members of Congress behaving for all the world like third-world banana republicans, going well beyond partisan maneuvering into blithe disregard of classified information and active undermining of federal law enforcement, all in service of an objectively defective executive. This way lies madness, and at some point, irreparable damage.

And also at some point, a decision for those of us who would see this nation as more than a kleptocracy, a lesson in the survival of the fittest/richest. I hope this doesn't happen, but there may be an event, a tipping point, a threat to the future so serious that it'll require good people to stand up and risk their comfortable lives to be counted. I don't have the first clue what form that might take - and let me reiterate that it's probably more likely that we don't get to that point - but it's in the realm of the realistic, which is something that would've been impossible to imagine for anyone other than the cabin-dwelling survivalists just two years ago. (Holy Shit! I've become the liberal version of the tinfoil hat people!)

I don't suggest that we'll be taking up arms and marching on Washington. More likely, the grinding assault on the lesser, the darker, the weirder, and the more foreign among us will demand that people of conscience must stand up to protect those who can't protect themselves. As Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller wrote of the moral failing of German intellectuals during the rise of Nazism:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

They've already come for the immigrants, and they've come for the Director of the FBI, and they've come for the uninsured. When they come a little closer to us, what's to be done?

Daniel Ellsburg was aided by a loose network of people committed to the idea that the Vietnam War was a stain on our national morality, and willing to face the consequences for revealing information that proved that point. I pray that I don't have to make any sort of similar choice, and I can't believe I'm writing these words for a public forum, but I'm no longer certain of very much.

I'd like to think that if I'm tested I'll pass.